Objective: It is unclear how well palliative care teams are staffed at US cancer centers. Our primary objective was to compare the composition of palliative care teams between National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers and non-NCI-designated cancer centers in 2018. We also assessed changes in team composition between 2009 and 2018. Methods: This national survey examined the team composition in palliative care programs at all 61 NCI-designated cancer centers and in a random sample of 60 of 1252 non-NCI-designated cancer centers in 2018. Responses were compared to those from our 2009 survey. The primary outcome was the presence of an interprofessional team defined as a palliative care physician, nurse, and psychosocial member. Secondary outcomes were the size and number of individual disciplines. Results: In 2018, 52/61 (85%) of NCI-designated and 27/38 (71%) non-NCI-designated cancer centers in the primary outcome comparison responded to the survey. NCI-designated cancer centers were more likely to have interprofessional teams than non-NCI-designated cancer centers (92% vs 67%; P = .009). Non-NCI-designated cancer centers were more likely to have nurse-led teams (14.8% vs 0.0%; P = .01). The median number of disciplines did not differ between groups (NCI, 6.0; non-NCI, 5.0; P = .08). Between 2009 and 2018, NCI-designated and non-NCI-designated cancer centers saw increased proportions of centers with interprofessional teams (NCI, 64.9% vs 92.0%, P < .001; non-NCI, 40.0% vs 66.7%; P = .047). Conclusion: NCI-designated cancer centers were more likely to report having an interprofessional palliative care team than non-NCI-designated cancer centers. Growth has been limited over the past decade, particularly at non-NCI-designated cancer centers.
Keywords: National Cancer Institute (US); cross-sectional studies; palliative care; patient care team; surveys and questionnaires.